Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Took a chance on the last day of duck season and hunted a private/public tidal marsh on the lower Potomac. I was the guest of 3 locals, who have all lived within 10 miles of the spot their whole lives. Hoss, their loyal 7 year old retriever, joined us. We set out from the boat ramp at about 6am and it was frigid : 17 degrees. The boat was sailing through a solid sheet of ice - about 1/4" thick. Any ducks in the area had obviously flown out when the marsh froze overnight. When we arrived at the duck blind, I was equally skeptical of the decoy spread, which consisted of 3 dozen Herters goose floaters from about 1975 (no fresh paint), 6 hand painted cork or foam mallards, and a robo-duck spinning decoy. Since we had to run the boat through the ice about 30 times to open up a patch of open water, I was sure that this would be a long, sleepy morning. However, I was wrong.
The shooting started early and never became heavy, but was consistent enough to make it a fun day. Due to the full moon, the tide in the marsh was not behaving normally and at about noon, we realized that we would be stranded for another several hours in the mud. I shot much better, and ultimately claimed 2 geese (really 1.5), 3 mallards (really 2.5), and a very dark ruddy duck that I mistakenly thought was a redhead when it flew into the decoys at about 40 mph. Hoss got work early and often, making several difficult retrieves through ice, mud, and flowing water. His reward - bacon, a scrapple sandwich, a hamburger, and anything else that the boys cooked up in the blind over the propane stove. He always got his share.
It was a great way to end the season - a cold hunt that was difficult but rewarding, with some of the finest company you could have in southern Maryland.
A taste of Southern Maryland!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
It has been a challenging, but not bad, season. The drought lasted into November, so the early-arriving ducks did not really see what habitat was around the farms and refuges. Hunting in late November to mid-December was very productive, as weather events were coming from the north and pushing ducks and geese from Canada into the Mid-Atlantic states, and also filling up wetlands and ponds. However, by Christmas, many of those ducks had flown south, and new weather events since then have been primarily noreasters - blowing up from the Mississippi & Gulf of Mexico. That keeps birds to the north of us (NY, PA, Canada) also. We never did get a flush of late ducks.
At any rate, it was a fun & challenging season that didn't require the purchase of a lot of new gear. And there is one hunt left.....the last day of the season!
Monday, January 21, 2008
The facts (roughly, from an old, probably outdated study):
Of the roughly 14% of wood duck boxes that ARE used by wood ducks, less than one third actually hatch a successful brood of ducklings.
Friday, January 18, 2008
New site we surveyed for a wetland restoration project! Good soils and only 1' of vertical fall over 8 acres! I'll take it!
Grave of Sarah Parker, d. 1915
Salt marsh is an unforgiving but exciting place to hunt birds. When the tide comes up, huge areas are flooded with shallow water, which greatly increases ducks' access to food - and decreases hunters' chances of attracting birds to a spread of duck decoys. This chaff and seed from Spartina cynosuroides was sitting on "dry" mud 20 minutes before this picture was taken. The seed is great duck food, while the chaff and culms (stems) are good food for aquatic snails that the ducks also enjoy to eat in the winter and spring.
Horrible photo of 4 male bald eagles fighting over dead chickens on a corporate chicken farm. Every day, the workers clean out the chicken houses, along with any dead chickens. They throw the dead chickens in the fields for eagles, hawks, and other scavengers to fight over. This sight was hard to comprehend - when I grew up in southeastern Virginia in the 1970s/1980s, there were very few bald eagles. 20 years later, they are common throughout the Chesapeake Bay (a wildlife management success story!), and far from being fierce, beautiful predators, they (as a whole) have carved out a niche as aggressive, opportunistic scavengers. The picture says it all - bald eagles in a soybean field, eating cold, dead chickens.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Fresh oysters are the call right now in the lower Chesapeake Bay, and when we finally get to put the waders on and hunt on friday, we are pretty sure ducks will be in the area. Expect good photos and hopefully some good stories :)
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Our crew is pretty down and out. Everyone is pretty much done sightseeing the third world areas of central america. Anyway the captain called our HQ in maryland, and told them to start thinking about crew changes. Some of the guys need to get home and some just want to go home. My major problem with that is the mound of paperwork that has to get approved because I am still waiting on my new passport. So in other words, we have no idea what is going on because there are too many variables.
I do know I miss american stuff like toilet paper that doesnt feel like recycled cardboard and hamburger meat that isnt 50% beef 50% rufus the old dog.
peace out tyler
In the summer, they look like this:
Yes, fellow bio-nerds, I know that a sedge meadow (pictured above) is a PEM1B, while a moist soil impoundment (first picture) is a PEM1C(h). Ya got me there. How 'bout this: "Pictures are for illustration only."
Thursday, January 3, 2008
The holidays were full of family time, and a family death & funeral, and left us pretty wiped out by the time we returned to work (January 2). Still reeling from the lack of time afield. However, great time to bust out some of my favorite, most important quotes that keep me motivated through the grind....until I can settle my schedule and get back out in the swamp.
My top 5:
5. Life...you got to ride it like you find it (Woody Guthrie)
4. All you have to do is do it (Descendents)
3. Life is full of choices, if you have the guts to go for it (Henry Rollins)
2. The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will (T. Roosevelt)
1. My troops may fail to take a position, but are never driven from one! (Stonewall Jackson)